Monday, March 31, 2014

A good time was had by all...

As I mentioned last week, my writing group's biennial conference was this past weekend. I wasn't interested in most of the workshops, which was all right, since I knew I was going to be needed in my capacity as a board member.

But I did get to attend three workshops and I got something important out of all three. In addition, one definite proof job and as well as the possibility of a future job fell in my lap. Thank you, Angi Morgan, for talking me up. I appreciate your confidence in me and my abilities more than you know. I also received an opportunity to expand my repertoire of services. Amy Atwell, author and founder of Author EMS, also spoke at our conference and discovered she had a need that I could fill. So I spoke with her and have an invitation to contact her at the end of the week. WOOT!

My favorite program, however, was the talk by Cindy Dees. Not because I was specifically interested in the topic, which was informative and timely, but because Cindy is so dynamic and funny and awes me with her depth and breadth of knowledge on so many different topics. And I got to sit across from her at dinner and soak up more of her knowledge and humor.

The conference was a success on multiple levels and I was add my thanks and appreciation to the conference coordinator, Lara Lacombe, who did a fabulous and thankless job with amazing grace.

I arrived home Sunday afternoon happily exhausted and with lots to think about. I'm still processing.

And if I'm this pooped after only two and a half days, what am I going to be like after the four/five days of RWA's national conference??

Friday, March 28, 2014

What a CROCK!

In a few short hours, I'll be on my way to scenic downtown Fort Worth for a weekend of fun, learning, networking and hopefully relaxing. There's a spa near the hotel and I'm seriously thinking of booking a massage, but I digress...

Tuesday was DD's 24th birthday. I know--I can't believe I have a child that old either.

Anyway, we've been making a lot of meals in the Crock-Pot of late--meals she loves--and since she's planning on moving out, I thought a Crock-Pot would be a good gift. And it was. She was very excited to get it. (Yes, she received other things as well.)

When I was shopping for her, I found this...only in black.

What is it you ask? It's a 20oz. personal Crock-Pot!

Remember, I gave up the microwave?? Well, eating cold or room temperature food gets old fast. Now I have food at just the right temperature when I'm ready to chow down.

Monday I used it for the leftover BBQ pork. Tuesday was leftover spaghetti. And Wednesday I reheated my leftovers from The Olive Garden to perfection.

It was a bit pricey for its size compared to the larger sizes, but I was willing to pay it and I haven't regretted it. If you want one for yourself or perhaps to give as a gift, you can find them much cheaper online.

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Two and half days...

Until my writers group conference. A mini-vacation for me, really.

We'll be at one of the fabulous hotels in downtown Fort Worth and you all know how much I love being downtown. I've been thinking about getting Fort Worth Friday back on the schedule and this'll give me a chance to scope out some more locations.

Yeah, yeah, I'm supposed to be at a conference learning stuff. But in all reality I'm mostly there as a board member to help make sure things go smoothly. Once things get underway I can take to the streets! Not that I can go far...

I'm looking forward to spending quality time with several of my writer friends as well as meeting some new friends. I downloaded a book the other day and then discovered the author is attending the conference as well--how fun will that be!

Monday, March 24, 2014

I bet you didn't know that I could juggle...

Not the "magic" kind of course, but the kind that requires one to keep track of several different things and all the inevitable sub-things and shoot-offs that go with them.

As you know, I've been coordinating, as we say in the romance writers community, a contest. Not just coordinating, but pulling off, pretty much single-handedly. I'm not doing it again. I'll be happy to coordinate as in truly directing others to do the various tasks, since I did it this year, but I'm not carrying the whole thing myself next year.

In addition, I've been working on a major project for work. It was technically supposed to be finished last week, but that didn't happen. It'll probably be the end of next week before it's 100% done, though most of it will get done this week. Next week will be for double-checking, crossing T's and dotting I's.

There are a few business ventures I'm researching and prepping for.

I'm also working on several projects from my proofreading business--one proof job and a couple of series bibles for an author friend of mine.

Then there's Sonshine I have to keep an eye on.

But every now and then my arms get tired and I have to drop the balls and rest.

What do I do to rest...I read though, to be honest, I read for a purpose.

The only thing I do that has no double purpose is play computer games. I decided a few weeks ago that I really missed playing them and started up again. I don't--can't--play to the exclusion of all else like I once did, but I must say it's been fun to just play for a few hours here and there.

What do you do rest and relax that has no other purpose than to let you do just that?

Friday, March 21, 2014

Backyard Update

It's been quite some time since I've rambled on about my backyard.

Of course, it's been way too cold to even go out there, so it's really no surprise is it?

But since yesterday was the official first day of spring, I thought it might be, if not fun, then interesting to see the pitiful state of my yard at the end of winter...

Without further ado...

The grass itself is in need of a good mow as well as several weed treatments. I'm going to have to research green methods, and I have a writing group mate who is the queen of green around these parts. She organizes a whole three day green event every year!

 This is the Chinese wisteria-- It looks completely dead, I know, but I'm pretty sure the main stem is still alive. I hope it's still alive. I'll have to inspect the neighbor's bush and see if she has anything on hers yet. Though I'll probably have to prune some of the for-sure dead vines.

The one azalea seems to have survived the winter, which included two or three freezes. I'm amazed. I really am.

My random tree treatment is a bit weedy there on the left, but easily cleared out. I want to get some sort of edging to put around the mulch/rock placement to keep the mulch contained and hopefully the weeds out. The squirrels really loved the mulch pit. I caught them napping and digging and enjoying it on several occasions.

Stevie from last September!

The flowerbed is over run with dead leaves and obviously needs a good cleaning out. I can only see the Sweet William. I'm not sure the status of everything else.

Remember my large frozen bush?

This is all that remains...

The brush pile there on the right is a lot bigger now, though. And there's a dump run in my very near future.

And last but not least and the most exciting--my trees are leaving!

I can't remember the name of the above tree...

 Above and below is my oak...

And the one that dropped the pokey balls is dead. No more pokey balls.

So there you have it...and I have my work cut out for me. But I'm looking forward to spending time outside, enjoying the warmer weather and my backyard despite it's sorry condition.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

So much to do, so little time...

I have all these things I want and need to do, but -- like everyone else -- only so many hours in a day.

Many people, like DH, tend to give up sleep to gain some time. Unfortunately, that's terribly counter-productive for me as my body requires a certain number of hours of sleep every night to function properly during the day. I mean, I can stay up late every now and again, but if I stay up too late or do so too many nights in a row, I pay for it in the end and I find, unless there's no help for it, that it's really not worth it.

Over the holidays, my proofing jobs dried up. I wasn't that upset about it as there was a lot going on and I was glad to not have deadlines. Now, however, though I haven't advertised, the jobs are trickling in again. It's good since I can use the money, but I'm not ready yet! I have some ideas and some research to do, but, alas, time and work wait for no woman.

I guess it's time to really get serious about my schedule, especially the early morning. I need to make a detailed list of the jobs I need to work on and make a plan to get them done.

I'll do that first thing tomorrow morning!

Monday, March 17, 2014

Top o' the mornin' to ya!

Happy St. Patty's Day!

(Courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

The real title of this post is: Time to stop wallerin' and time to make things happen...

The last few weeks have been tough and I've struggled with getting things done. Especially the exercising, but it's time to shake off the funk and get back to work. (Says she whose eyes are gritty at 5:01 AM as she's writing this and wants nothing more than to curl up on the sofa for some additional sleep.)

I have grand plans of being up by five a.m. and ready to work by six on the various for hire projects I've got and am trying to generate. The reality isn't always so easy, but one day at a time.

Other projects are in the planning, as well. But they're going take time and research and a lot of writing.

Yesterday, however, was a really productive day--my living room got a much needed sweeping and dusting (although Sonshine did the dusting...). The furniture got moved and turned over and swept under and everything! All the laundry got washed, although there's a last half load in the dryer waiting to be put away. I played on the computer for a while. I read up on one of my projects, a sort of research, in addition to working on an aspect of the project that I already knew and understood. I was even able to take a nap. (Which is why I'm struggling this morning.)

On another topic, I talked about coconut oil a while back and again last week, I think. **checking... Okay, no, I didn't. I've been thinking about it, I just haven't written the post as it'll take some time--longer than a regular post--and I just haven't had it. But soon. I need to schedule time in my week for researching and writing blog posts.

Anyway, I've upped my coconut oil consumption. Not drastically, but I cook with it and I add a teaspoon to my morning oatmeal. I'll share all the benefits soon. For today, I'm just going to mention that my brain feels likes it's working better. I hadn't really noticed it until yesterday when I was playing Rock Band with the kids--it just felt as if the synapses were firing better. I was able to play the harder levels with more complicated parts with less difficulty. So that's a good thing.

And now, it's time to get the treadmill warmed up!

See you on Wednesday...

Friday, March 14, 2014

Exercise and energy...

Is there a direct correlation?

Without extensive research I'm going to say yes. At least for me.

This week, I have not been very diligent about exercising. But after thinking about the days I exercised and comparing them to the days I didn't, I can see that on the days I did, I came to work feeling more energized and ready to get to work and accomplish something. The days I didn't exercise, I felt blah and unmotivated.

Feeling blah and unmotivated makes you want to skip exercising even more and it becomes an awful cycle.

So what's a person to do? Push on through and do it anyway! Easier said than done, eh??

What about you? Are you easily detoured from doing what you need to do or are you motivated enough or strict enough with yourself not to give in to the blahs? Is giving in even an option for you?

And happy Friday all! This is writers group weekend and I can't wait to see my chapter mates, critique partners, and friends.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Frustration and dissatisfaction

Changes have been taking place within the umbrella organization of my writers group. I've been on the leadership loop for several months now and after the usual hail and farewells that accompany the new year and the changing of officers that each chapter experiences, the discussion has returned to the changes.

Chapters were forced to adopt standard bylaws with few options for us to choose from. The number and types of board positions the individual chapters could utilize has been given--we no longer get to choose what we need or what best suits us and our offerings. The requirements for service have been mandated and they are not small-chapter friendly. Several chapters have folded for various reasons, several others are in danger.

Many chapter leaders are frustrated because they don't understand the reasoning behind the changes. They seem harsh and unnecessary. There are other changes going on that aren't related to bylaws but that are just as frustrating and threatening and many chapters are losing members as a result as well.

With respect to the changes in the publishing industry, authors, especially the successful, selling ones have more on their plates in terms of writing and promotion, leaving less time to devote to chapter leadership.

So with the loss of members and less time for discretionary activities, how do chapters survive? In the old paradigm, there just weren't that many published authors and the rest of the aspiring chapter peons were willing to handle the running of the chapter.

But the organization is, has always been, and always will be focused on the career romance writer--even if she's working a day job to pay the bills. Those who write more as a hobby will soon be force into a different membership status--and unable to serve in board positions.

In the new paradigm, even medium to large sized chapters are finding it difficult to operate within the rules and regulations set down by the parent organization. We've assigned our board members oversight and then any member can serve and do the day-to-day work of the chapter, but it's still hard to find members willing to serve at all.

After biting off almost more than I can chew with our chapter's new contest I'm this ( ) close to being burnt out and I *like* volunteering and serving the groups I'm a part of.

People no longer need the organization like they once did. They're feeling pushed out and disenfranchised.

The parent organization currently has over 10K members, which is really fantastic. But I'm wondering, when the dust settles, how many members will remain and/or for how long?

Monday, March 10, 2014


Not going to bore with the changes in my life again. At least, not today.

Today, I'm going to talk a little bit about the changes to the publishing industry as they pertain to the romance genre and to me.

The publishing world has never been more author friendly than it is right now. Authors finally have some power. With the growth and advancements of the Internet, authors can self-publish their books with just the click of a button. An aspiring author no longer has to pay their dues, if you will, writing book after book all the while honing their craft and learning the industry until they can get their work in front of a gatekeeper, also known as an agent or editor. Although, if they're smart and realistic, they will take their time to learn their craft.

When I first joined RWA in 2003, one of the largest writing/genre specific organizations in the world, an aspiring author entered contest after contest getting feedback on their work, learning from those who had gone before. If they were good enough, perhaps that final round editor or agent requested a partial or full manuscript for consideration. If they were super lucky, they got a contract and became a published author.

(The logo for my writing group's annual unpublished works writing contest.)

Sadly, many people think they can write a good book. It's not really as easy as it looks, at least not for most people. Sure, the stars align for some authors and they can bang out nearly perfect prose in a single try, but most writers require critique partners, editors, and several rounds of revisions for the end product to be fit for public consumption.

And while the changes in the industry are mostly a good thing in general and for authors as a whole, I think something's been lost.

Since aspiring authors can become published authors on a whim (this is what fan fiction is for, people!), the plethora of bad books out in cyberspace is a sad commentary on just how easy it is. Since pretty much all the books I read are free, I don't feel sad or guilty about not finishing a book should it not live up to my standards.

Am I too picky? Are my standards too high? Am I fighting a losing battle? The answer may well be yes to all these questions, but my time is limited and I'm not wasting any more of it than necessary on reading badly written books. But I digress.

I generally judge two contests a year, including ours. It used to be that decent first chapters were the norm, and I'd come across a truly awful entry every other year or so. The rest were okay, showcasing various levels of experience and proficiency both in a sub-genre and with grammar, spelling, and punctuation in general. Now, the awful entries are the norm and the even the decent ones only come along once in a great while.

The impetus for this post was the awful contest entry I judged this weekend. It was sad. When I read entries like this, I really want to ask: DON'T YOU READ ROMANCE NOVELS??? Of course with the glut of so many bad books available, maybe they do. And this is the result.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Life as I know it...

...will be drastically changed within the next six months. By September 1st, I will officially be an empty nester. I'm not sure how I feel about that. It'll just be DH and me in the house. What a concept....

As mentioned, DD wants to move out. Badly. Despite the glitch with the houses, I'm pretty sure she and her roommates will have found something and be moved within the next few months.

Sonshine has settled (for the time being) on joining the Army. Yes, he's changed his mind several times in the past year on what he wants to do upon graduation, and, yes, he may yet change it again. But the tentative plan is for him to work one last fireworks season with his dad before signing on the dotted line. Please cross your fingers that he stays with this course of action.

And I should be able to work from home at least part of the time come May or June.

Despite those upcoming changes, I do still feel like a hamster on a wheel. Plugging along each day on these two projects I have going, although as of today, I am one step closer to finishing one of them--the ickier one. The goal is to be completely done by next Friday. Well, I guess I do see some light at the end of that tunnel. I just hadn't really thought about it and it seems like I've been working on so long already.

As for having my house to myself...since DD and roommates have no firm date I have nothing to focus on, and although high school graduation will take place on June 5th, 6th, 7th, or 8th--I don't know which day they'll assign to Sonshine's HS at the moment--it's still just a bit far out for me, though it'll be here before I know it. I know that.

Oh, well...I'll just keep on keeping on and I'll keep y'all posted.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

The state of Jen and other things...

So my purse arrived last Thursday! A day early, even, which was nice because I needed a little pick-me-up.

Anyway, I love it. It's a bit bigger than I expected (which is good, considering what I paid for it) and has only one large compartment. There're a pair of small pockets on one side and another slightly larger zippered one on the other, but they aren't really large enough to organize my stuff.

So back to the 'Net I went and bought a purse organizer! The only thing left that I need more than want (that second purse) is a wallet. But I need to work a few more proofing jobs before I can splurge on that.

Aside from the short excitement of the new purse, I feel as if I'm in a holding pattern right now, and I'm not really liking it. I can't seem to get anything done, I can't plan anything, and all I can do is work on the same two major projects and I'm feeling as if they'll never be finished. I know they will, eventually, but still.

DD was supposed to move out soon, but the two houses she and her roommates were looking at didn't work out. So now it's back to the drawing board for them. But you know, now that she's dangled that carrot, I'm ready for it all to be said and done. One more thing I'm waiting on...

My brown-eyed girl is definitely moving and will be living about four hours away by car before March is over. On the bright side, she'll finally get her driver's license on Friday, and once she gets to where she's going, her living expenses will be cut in half as she is moving in with her boyfriend.

Sonshine is a few short months from graduating high school. Wow. I remember taking him home from the hospital like it was yesterday. And what's he going to do with his life?? Good question, he's changed his mind three or four times just this year. Monday he said he was joining the Army since he really didn't know what else to do with himself right now.

We're one step closer to me being able to work from home. The biggest hurdle was me being able to answer phones as that is one of my primary responsibilities. We now have phones that work over the Internet and they're really cool and have some neat features. Unfortunately, one of those huge projects requires me to have access to all our paperwork, which, of course, is all at the office. But I'm hoping that I can start with, say, one or two mornings a week and build up. I think that's a few weeks out yet though.

One of my biggest issues with working from home is going to be distractions. I struggle enough at the office, so I've been practicing keeping my focus on the task at hand. I make a list every day, and I've created a master list of everything I do in general, including those quarterly things like filing 941 returns and the once-a-year kind of things like filing 940 returns. The next thing, I think, is to make a loose schedule and start implementing it at the office before I make the transition.

The celery and peanut butter is working out great so far. I haven't gained poundage back that could be linked to the higher calorie snack (just the other bad choices). I even started making a second set for DH to have. Now if only I could get him to eat at regular intervals.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Birthday Celebrations

Yesterday, we celebrated the Brown Eyed Girl's 26th birthday!

We spent a leisurely day staying warm, chatting, and watching Once Upon a Time via Netflix. Then there was dinner: mashed potatoes--the Brown Eyed Girl's fave--along with barbecued chicken and broccoli. And, of course, birthday cake and presents!